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Napoli Star Unimpressed With Anfield's Iconic Feature

Napoli Star Unimpressed With Anfield's Iconic Feature
By Gavin Cooney

On Merseyside right now, there settles the calm before the expected storm of Another Famous European Night At Anfield.

Having contrived to lose all of their away games thus far, Liverpool need not just a win against Napoli tonight to progress, but a certain kind of win. To finish ahead of the Italian club on a head-to-head basis, Liverpool need to either win 1-0, or, if they concede, by a two-goal margin. So while a 1-0 win would be enough to go through, a 2-1 win wouldn't do it.

By quirk of circumstance, it is an exact repeat of the scenario Liverpool found themselves in back in 2004, when they were ultimately rescued by Steven Gerrard against a Rivaldo-led Olympiakos. They did, of course, go on to win the competition that year, and in so doing introduced a new generation of fans to the turbo-charged atmosphere at the old ground for a big European game.

Jurgen Klopp has called on his supporters to do their bit against Napoli tonight, meaning that should Liverpool do the business, there will be another few images to add to Anfield's near-mythic reel.

One man unimpressed with the famous old ground, however, is Napoli's Dries Mertens. The Belgian has played at Anfield before - as part of an FC Utrecht team that drew 0-0 in a godawful, dead-rubber Europa League tie. Among those playing on the night for Roh Hodgson's Liverpool were Brad Jones, Danny Wilson, Joe Cole, Christian Poulsen, and Nathan Ecclestone. Mertens was part of a team with another couple of mildly recognisable faces - Spurs' reserve 'keeper Michel Vorm and future Norwich striker Ricky Van Wolfswinkel.

(Also in the Utrecht team was Barry Maguire, now of Limerick and once an Irish under-16 international who went on to play up to under-20 level with the Dutch).

Recalling that game with the Times' Alyson Rudd, Mertens was underwhelmed with the atmosphere and one of the ground's most iconic feature - the This is Anfield sign.

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My strongest memory is that they have a sign saying ‘This is Anfield’ and everyone was talking about it, so I was thinking it’s very big, you know. I came through the tunnel and I asked, ‘Where is the thing?’ and they said you missed it and I hadn’t noticed it. So, in the second half, I’m looking at this small thing and asking, ‘Is this so special?’

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